Economic Development Strategist and Author
Pete Ondeng is a Kenyan-based economic development practitioner, author, speaker and a one-time Presidential candidate. He has served in very significant leadership roles with a range of private, public and non-profit organizations.
Ondeng graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in 1982 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting. Before returning to his native Kenya, he also earned his Certified Public Accountant credentials.
Born in 1959 in Kenya, he attended Rift Valley Academy, a Christian boarding school operated by American missionaries. At the end of his 10th-grade year, he encountered a heart-breaking tragedy that God would later use to enable him to travel to the United States for his college education. His closest childhood friend, Clark Whitson, was involved in an accident and died while in the United States with his family. In an unexpected twist, Clark’s parents resolved to “adopt” Ondeng into their family. In honor of their late son, the family undertook to sponsor Ondeng through four years of university education in America. Both Ondeng and Hardin-Simmons University were immeasurably blessed by the Whitsons’ beneficent and generous act resulting in God’s marvellous provision.
After graduating from HSU, Ondeng moved to Dallas where he began his professional career as an accountant with the McDonald’s Corporation. He was later promoted to Internal Auditor and transferred to the company’s corporate headquarters in Chicago. Three years later, he accepted an attractive offer to join the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as a Senior Financial Analyst at the organization’s Nairobi office. During that time, he authored and self-published his first book, entitled How to Start Your Own Small Business. The book was well received, with sales of more than 25,000 copies in its first three years.
In 1990, Pete Ondeng married May, a communications specialist and childhood friend. They have been blessed with two sons, both of whom are working in Nairobi.
Ondeng has traveled widely and has carried out short and long-term assignments in more than 20 countries. On one of his international assignments, he was stationed in the Netherlands serving as Africa Director for an international impact investment organization. He was subsequently offered a high profile, public assignment by the then-President of Kenya. That assignment put him in direct contact with heads of state and governments across the Continent. In the midst of this work, he published his second book, entitled Africa’s Moment, a highly personal reflection on the challenges and hopes of Africa through the eyes of a “globalized” African.
Today, Ondeng is the Founder and President of the Lead Africa Foundation, a leadership think tank which also provides training for emerging leaders at all levels of society. As a strategist, he has advised and supported political, corporate and organizational leaders across a range of sectors and organizations. Through these engagements, he has contributed to shaping public opinion on a wide range of social, economic and political topics across the vast continent of Africa.
In 2017, at the height of a divisive election season in Kenya, Ondeng was challenged to consider offering himself for elective office. After several months of deliberation, consultation and prayer, he declared his candidacy for the office of President of Kenya. After a brief period on the campaign trail, he withdrew his candidacy and accepted the role of leading the campaign of another independent presidential candidate with whom he shared values, and whose candidacy was more viable.
His brief foray into national politics served to strengthen his resolve to work toward making Africa a more positive, peaceful and progressive place for all. He draws his inspiration from the words of Jesus in Mark 9:23 – “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
For his impressive career accomplishments and for his faithful dedication to public service and leadership, it is a high honor for HSU to induct one of its own, Pete Ondeng, into the Hardin-Simmons University Hall of Leaders.